Volume 17, No.10 - October 2013

Trends and analysis

Screening of Forests Short Film Festival

The UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) Secretariat is holding the first screening of the 5 winning films of the Forests Short Films Contest “Forest for People” at UN Headquarters on 1 October. They  feature stories of forests and people from Peru to South Africa.

The UNFF Secretariat partnered with the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival to honor the creative efforts of film makers who capture dynamic and unique relationship between forests and the people who depend on them. This year’s Film Festival was for short films of five minutes or less. The winning films present a vision of forests through the eyes of Amazonian animals, young children and veteran charcoal burners.

In total, 128 entries from 38 countries competed to win at the prestigious Festival. Each entry shared a unique story of how forests inspire and contribute to our lives. An international jury, consisting of lauded practitioners and UN experts awarded 5 films.

As discussions of the priorities of the next development agenda take root, the International Forests Short Film Festival hopes to serve as inspiration for transformational change with Sustainable Development at its heart.

The screening will take place in UN Headquarters, room S-2723, from 1:15-2:15 pm. Seats are limited. To attend, please RSVP by sending an e-mail to

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MDG Monitoring in the UN system

DESA’s Statistics Division will convene the 24th meeting of Interagency and Expert Group Meeting on MDG indicators (IAEG-MDG), in Geneva, Switzerland, from 16 to 19 October 2013.

The IAEG-MDG has been responsible for data development, compilation and analysis for the assessment of trends in MDG indicators. The Group includes the UN Secretariat, a number of UN agencies, as well as national experts from statistical offices concerned with the development of data for MDGs. The 24th meeting will review the on-going and planned activities related to MDG monitoring by various UN agencies, and discuss the plans for the upcoming MDG reports. The group will also explore the lessons learned from MDG monitoring at national and regional levels.

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International Cooperation in Tax Matters

The ninth session of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters will be held from 21 to 25 October at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The meeting will discuss, inter alia, issues related to the next update of the United Nations Model Double Taxation Convention between Developed and Developing Countries, including various issues related to the concept of “permanent establishment” (Article 5), the meaning of “auxiliary activities” under Article 8 (Transportation), the “force of attraction” principle in Article 7, the Commentary to Article 9 (Associated Enterprises), Article 12 on Royalties, and Exchange of Information (Article 26). The Committee will also discuss cross-cutting issues under the UN Model, such as taxation of services and interaction of the Model with climate change mechanisms.

Other issues on the agenda of the session include work towards the next update of the United Nations Practical Manual on Transfer Pricing for Developing Countries, foreign direct investment issues and corporate taxation, including resource taxation issues for developing countries, and capacity development.

As this will be the first session of the new Membership of the Committee, a Chairperson and other Officers will be elected at the beginning of the session. Establishment of Subcommittees and appointment of their Coordinators will also be decided on during the course of the session.

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Conducting population and housing censuses

DESA’s Statistics Division is organising the UN Expert Group Meeting on Revising the Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses. It will be held from 29 October – 1 November in New York.

The main purpose of the meeting is to lay down the framework for the revised set of international principles and recommendations for population and housing censuses in the 2020 round censuses, that will take place from 2015 to 2024, The experts will take stock of the experiences in conducting population and housing censuses in the 2010 round and adopt an outline for the revision, as well as distributing specific tasks related to the preparation of the content of the recommendations among themselves. The revised Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses: the 2020 Round will be the major international statistical standard guiding the work on population and housing censuses in 2020 round.

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What kind of high income country can China become

Wednesday, Sept 4 the Development Strategy and Policy Analysis (DSP) unit of UN DESA-DPAD organised a seminar in the Development Policy Seminar series, during which Mr. Syed Nazrul Islam, PhD Harvard, Senior Economic Affairs Officer with DSP, presented a recent paper on China.

The paper asked whether or not China can successfully overcome the ‘middle-income trap’. Mr Pingfan Hong, the Acting Director of UN DESA-DPAD was the discussant and Mr. Willem van der Geest, Chief of DSP moderated.

With per capita income of $ 5445 in 2011 China has confirmed its place among the middle income group of countries with ranges from $1,026 to $12,475 in 2011. Some analysts have expressed a concern that factors like the high level of income inequality, China’s household registration system known as “Hukou” and others may ‘trap’ China from transcending from the middle income category. Mr. Islam discussed different perspectives on the middle income trap.  He contrasted Kharas and Kohli’s (2011) perspectives with that of Lin (2012) and noted that these authors agree on the necessity of a more equitable income distribution as a pre-condition for avoidance of the middle income trap.

Mr. Islam also contrasted China’s record regarding inequality with that of Japan, South Korea, and others. Mr. Islam further questioned whether, “Is it the only thing we want from China – to follow the route of previously developed countries? Should we be so hung up on this middle- to high-income transition or should we apply to a different paradigm?”  In his discussion Mr.  Hong pointed out the need to explore further the causes of the high income inequality in China. He observed the heterogeneity of the countries in the middle income group – some natural resource rich, others with large labour resources. He noted the technology gap. For China, he emphasised the importance of continued economic, social and institutional reforms as well as making sure that the price of environmental resources reflect their true costs.